Mikoyan MiG-31

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For the fictional aircraft of the novel and movie Firefox, see Mikoyan MiG-31 (fictional).
Russian Air Force MiG-31 inflight Pichugin.jpg
Russian Air Force MiG-31 in flight
Role Interceptor aircraft
Manufacturer Mikoyan
Designer Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy
First flight 16 September 1975
Introduction 6 May 1981
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Kazakhstan Air Force
Produced 1975–1994
Number built approx. 400[1] /500[2][3]
Developed from Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25

The Mikoyan MiG-31 (Russian: Микоян МиГ-31; NATO reporting name: Foxhound) is a supersonic interceptor aircraft developed for the uses of the Soviet Air Forces. The aircraft was designed by the Mikoyan design bureau as a replacement for the earlier MiG-25 "Foxbat"; the MiG-31 is based on, and shares design elements with, the MiG-25 itself.[4] The MiG-31 has the distinction of being one of the fastest combat jets in the world.[5] It continued to be operated by the Russian Air Force and the Kazakhstan Air Force following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The Russian Defense Ministry expects the MiG-31 to remain in service until at least 2030.[6]



The MiG-25, despite Western panic about its tremendous performance, made substantial design sacrifices in capability for the sake of achieving high speed, altitude and rate of climb. It lacked maneuverability at interception speeds and was difficult to fly at low altitudes. The MiG-25's speed was limited to Mach 2.83 in operations, but it could reach a maximum speed of Mach 3.2 or more with the risk of damaging the engines beyond repair.[7][8]

MiG-31BM taking off from Chelyabinsk Shagol in 2012

Development of the MiG-25's replacement began with the Ye-155MP (Russian: Е-155МП) prototype which first flew on 16 September 1975.[9] Although it bore a superficial resemblance to a stretched MiG-25 with a longer fuselage to accommodate the radar operator's cockpit, it was in many respects a new design. The MiG-25 used 80% nickel steel in its structure to allow welding.[10] An important development was the advanced radar, capable of both look-up and look-down/shoot-down engagement (locating targets above and below the aircraft), as well as multiple target tracking. This gave the Soviet Union an interceptor able to engage the most likely Western intruders (low flying cruise missiles and bombers) at long range.[11]

Like its MiG-25 predecessor, the MiG-31 was surrounded by early speculation and misinformation concerning its design and abilities. The West learned of the new interceptor from Lieutenant Viktor Belenko, a pilot who defected to Japan in 1976 with his MiG-25P. Belenko described an upcoming "Super Foxbat" with two seats and an ability to intercept cruise missiles. According to his testimony, the new interceptor was to have air intakes similar to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23, which the MiG-31 does not have, at least not in production variants.

The MiG-31 is able to maintain combat effectiveness despite the potential use of active and passive radar jammers and thermal decoys by adversaries. A group of four MiG-31 interceptors is able to control an area of air space across a total length of 800–900 km;[11] its radar possessing its highest detection range of 200 km in distance (radius) and the typical width of detection along the front of 225 km.[12]

Production of the MiG-31 ended in 1994.[13]

Upgrades and replacement[edit]

Some upgrade programs have found their way in the MiG-31 fleet, like the MiG-31BM multirole version with upgraded avionics, new multimode radar, hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls, liquid crystal (LCD) color multi-function displays (MFDs), ability to carry the R-77 missile and various Russian air-to-ground missiles (AGMs) such as the Kh-31 anti-radiation missile (ARM), a new and more powerful computer, and digital data links. A project to upgrade the Russian MiG-31 fleet to the MiG-31BM standard was begun in 2010;[14] 100 aircraft are to be upgraded to MiG-31BM standard by 2020.[15][16] It has been claimed by Russian Federation Defence Ministry chief Colonel Yuri Balyko, that the upgrade will increase the combat effectiveness of the aircraft several times over.[17] 18 MIG-31BMs were delivered in 2014.[18] The Russian military will receive more than 130 upgraded MiG-31BMs, and the first 24 aircraft have already been delivered, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters on 9 April 2015.[19]

Russia hopes to field a replacement for the MiG-31 by 2020, with all aircraft retired by 2028. Development of a new aircraft, designated MiG-41, had started by April 2013. Development of a new interceptor is favored over restarting MiG-31 production.[20] In March 2014, Russian test pilot Anatoly Kvochur said that work has begun on a Mach 4[dubious ] MiG-41 based on the MiG-31.[21][22] Development on the MiG-31 replacement is to begin in 2017, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2020, and to enter service in 2025.[23]



A MiG-31 in flight over Russia in 2012

Like the MiG-25, MiG-31 is a large twin-engine aircraft with side-mounted air intake ramps, a shoulder-mounted wing with an aspect ratio of 2.94, and twin vertical tailfins. Unlike the MiG-25, it has two seats, with the rear occupied by a dedicated weapon systems officer.[24] The MiG-31 is limited to only 5 g when travelling at supersonic speeds.[7] While flying under combat weight, its wing loading is marginal and its thrust-to-weight ratio is favorable. However, the MiG-31 is not designed for close combat or rapid turning.[7]

The wings and airframe of the MiG-31 are stronger than those of the MiG-25, permitting supersonic flight at low altitudes. Its D30-F6 jet engines, each rated at 152 kN thrust, allow a maximum speed of Mach 1.23 at low altitude. High-altitude speed is temperature-redlined to Mach 2.83 – the thrust-to-drag ratio is sufficient for speeds in excess of Mach 3, but such speeds pose unacceptable hazards to engine and airframe life in routine use.[7]

Electronics suite[edit]

MiG-31 showing its Zaslon phased-array radar

The MiG-31 was the world's first operational fighter with a passive electronically scanned array radar (PESA), the Zaslon S-800. Its maximum range against fighter-sized targets is approximately 200 km (125 mi), and it can track up to 10 targets and simultaneously attack four of them with its Vympel R-33 missiles. The radar is matched with an infra-red search and track (IRST) system in a retractable undernose fairing.[7]

The A-50 AEW aircraft and MiG-31 can automatically exchange aerial and terrestrial radar target designation.[25]

The MiG-31 was equipped with RK-RLDN and APD-518[3] digital secure datalinks. The RK-RLDN datalink is for communication with ground control centers. The APD-518 datalink enables a flight of four MiG-31 to automatically exchange radar-generated data within 200[26] km (124 mi) from each other. It also enables other aircraft with less sophisticated avionics,[27] such as MiG-23,25,29/Su-15,27[12] to be directed to targets spotted by MiG-31 (a maximum of 4 (long-range) for each MiG-31 aircraft).


Adopted in 1981 RP-31 N007 backstop (Russian -Zaslon).[28]

  • the range of detection of air targets: 200 km (for the purpose of a radar cross-section of 19 m2 on a collision angle with probability 0.5)
  • target detection distance with radar cross-section of 3 m2 in the rear within 35 km with a probability of 0.5 ([29][30])
  • number of detected targets: 24 (was originally 10[31])
  • number of targets for attack: 6 (was originally 4[31][32])
  • range of automatic tracking: 120 km
  • detection of thermal goals: 56 km
  • Has great opportunities for the detection of cruise missiles and other targets against the background of the earth's surface[31]
  • The MiG-31 was the world's only serial fighter equipped with phased array radar until 2000,[33][34] when the Mitsubishi F-2 entered service with state of the art J/APG-1 active phased array radar.

The basic differences between other versions and the МiG-31BM:[32]

The onboard radar complex of the MiG-31BM can track 24 airborne targets at one time, 6 of which can be simultaneously attacked by R-33S missiles.

Modernized variants of the aircraft can be equipped with anti-radiation missiles Kh-31, Kh-25MR or MPU (up to six units), anti-ship Kh-31A (up to six), air-to-surface class missiles Kh-29 and Kh-59 (up to three) or Kh-59M (up to two units), up to six precision bombs KAB-1500 or eight KAB-500 with television or laser-guidance. Maximum mass of payload is 9000 kg.[citation needed]

The MiG-31M, MiG-31D, and MiG-31BM standard aircraft have an upgraded Zaslon-M radar, with larger antenna and greater detection range (said to be 400 km (250 mi) against AWACS-size targets) and the ability to attack multiple targets — air and ground — simultaneously. The Zaslon-M has a 1.4 m diameter (larger) antenna, with 50% to 100% better performance than Zaslon. In April 1994 it was used with an R-37 to hit a target at 300 km distance.[28] It has a search range of 400 km for a 19/20 m2 RCS target and can track 24 targets at once, engaging six[35][36] (282 km for 5 m2[37]). Target speed increased from 5 Mach to 6 Mach, improving possibility of firing through the land.[28] The MiG-31 is one of only a few aircraft able to intercept and destroy cruise missiles flying at extremely low heights.[28][38][39]


The aircraft is a two-seater with the rear seat occupant controlling the radar. Although cockpit controls are duplicated across cockpits, it is normal for the aircraft to be flown only from the front seat. The pilot flies the aircraft by means of a centre stick and left hand throttles. The rear cockpit has only two small vision ports on the sides of the canopy. It is argued that the presence of the WSO (Weapon Systems Operator) in the rear cockpit improves aircraft effectiveness since the WSO is entirely dedicated to radar operations and weapons deployment. This decreases the workload of the pilot and increases efficiency. Both cockpits are fitted with zero/zero ejection seats which allow the crew to eject at any altitude and airspeed.[7]


MiG-31 armed with R-33 missiles

The MiG-31's main armament is four R-33 air-to-air missiles (NATO codename AA-9 'Amos') carried under the belly. The R-33 is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Navy's AIM-54 Phoenix.

Unlike the MiG-25, the MiG-31 has an internal cannon, a six-barrel, 23 mm GSh-6-23 with 800 rounds of ammunition, mounted above the starboard main landing gear bay. The GSh-6-23 has a claimed rate of fire of over 10,000 rounds per minute. However, due to the loss of two Su-24s because of premature shell detonation in 1983, and problems with gun usage (such as system failures), use of the GSh-6-23 was stopped by a decision of the Soviet AF Command. The aircraft in the Russian AF were flying with fully operational guns, but without ammunition in January 2009.[40]

Operational history[edit]

A side view of a MiG-31 from 790th Fighter Order of Kutuzov Aviation Regiment on the runway of Khotilovo airbase, Tver region.
Two MiG-31s flying in formation

Serial production of ordinary MIG -31 started in 1979.[41] The MiG-31 entered operational service with the Soviet Air Defence Forces (PVO) in 1981[42] It was the only Soviet fighter capable of intercepting the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and did so starting in 1986.[24][43][44] Not only the world's first aircraft with a phased array radar, but the only aircraft capable of independently firing long-range missiles as of 2014.[45][45][46][47] For the MiG-31BM detection range of 282 km for the purpose of 5 square meters,[48] and 189 km for stealth objectives.[49]

With the designation Ye-266, a re-engined Ye-155 shattered world records. It reached an absolute maximum altitude of 123,524 ft, or 37,650 m, and set a time to height record of 35,000 m in 4 minutes, 11.78 seconds, both of which were set by test pilot Alexander Fedotov. Ostapenko, his deputy, set a record of 30,000 m in 3 minutes, 9.8 seconds.[50]

Following the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 the budget for spares and maintenance collapsed, leaving many squadrons unable to maintain their aircraft. The MIG-31 AOG desk was created to address this problem.[citation needed]


Syria ordered eight MiG-31E aircraft in 2007 for Syrian Air Force.[51][52] However, the order has been suspended in May 2009 reportedly either due to Israeli pressure or lack of Syrian funds.[53]


A front view of a MiG-31 on the ramp of Khotilovo airbase, Tver region


A new version of the MiG-31 with upgraded avionics and in-flight refueling, the MiG-31B, was introduced in 1990. Its development was the result of the Soviet discovery that Phazotron radar division engineer Adolf Tolkachev had sold information on advanced radars to the West. A new version of the compromised radar was hastily developed.[54] Many earlier MiG-31s were upgraded to the new MiG-31BS standard, but not equipped with in-flight refueling system.[55]


Development of a more comprehensive advanced version, the MiG-31M, began in 1984 and first flew in 1985, but the dissolution of the Soviet Union prevented it from entering full production. The MiG-31M standard adds some additional features.[56]


The upgraded MiG-31BМ maximum range of detection of air targets increased to 320 km, automatic tracking accepted up to ten targets, and the latest units can track up to 24 targets and simultaneously attack up to 6 targets. On-Board computer Argon-K selects the four most important, which simultaneously are engaged by four air-to-air long-range R-33S missiles. Thermal search is interfaced with radar and is designed for passive review of the airspace, and for the issuance of R-40TD and R-60 TGS missiles targeting.[citation needed]

The basic difference between earlier versions and the МiG-31BM[57] (1998):[58] is that the МiG-31BM can act as a small AWACS airplane. Onboard equipment provides interaction with ground anti-aircraft missile defense units and as an air command post to coordinate the actions of other types of fighters with less potent radars.[12]


Mikoyan MiG-31 Operators 2010

Former operators[edit]

 Soviet Union

Notable accidents[edit]

On 6 September 2011, a MiG-31 crashed near Bolgary village, Perm region, Russia.[65] The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, killing both pilots. Another, non-fatal crash occurred in 2010. The entire fleet was grounded pending an investigation.[66]

During the night of 23 April 2013, a Kazakhstan Air Force MiG-31 crashed during a training flight near the village of Prostornoye in the Karaganda Region of Kazakhstan, killing the pilot and injuring the navigator. The plane crashed due to technical failure. The same plane underwent a major overhaul at a plant in Rzhev, northwest Russia in December 2012.[67]

On 4 September 2014, a MiG-31 crashed during exercises at a distance of 25 kilometres from the city of Armavir.[68]

Specifications (MiG-31)[edit]

MiG-31BM on display at MAKS Airshow on 22 August 2009
MiG-31E at 2005 MAKS Airshow
MiG-31E landing at Sormovo Airfield, 2007

Data from Great Book of Modern Warplanes,[4] MiG-31E data,[69] Combat Aircraft since 1945[1]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two (pilot and weapons system officer)
  • Length: 22.69 m (74 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 13.46 m (44 ft 2 in)
  • Height: 6.15 m (20 ft 2 in)
  • Wing area: 61.6 m2 (663 ft2)
  • Empty weight: 21,820 kg (48,100 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 41,000 kg (90,400 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 46,200 kg (101,900 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Soloviev D-30F6 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 93 kN (20,900 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 152 kN (34,172 lbf) each



See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



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External links[edit]